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Op-ed, blogs and columns

Film Production in Pickens County Economic Blockbuster or Flop?

By Gerry Nechvatal

Pickens County Economic Development Director

     By now it is no secret to most that the new Clint Eastwood, Justin Timberlake, and Amy Adams movie Trouble with the Curve will be filming a scene at a Jasper location in April. And while this is very exciting, it has sparked some debate about the impact it will have on the community from an economic standpoint.

Taken as a singular occurrence the value may be relatively small, as is any two day event or festival, but the objective is not to just have this be a one time event.

Georgia has created a very favorable business environment for entertainment productions as well as established programs such as “Camera Ready” through the Georgia Department of Economic Development in order to recruit these types of opportunities to the State.

     These efforts have been very successful as recently documented in a trade industry publication ranking Georgia #3 in top places to film, coming in only behind California and Connecticut. Upcoming releases filmed in Georgia include Joyful Noise, Jayne Mansfield’s Car and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. The list of actors is impressive with big name stars such as Dolly Parton, Robert Duval, Kevin Bacon, Cameron Diaz, and Jennifer Lopez.

     Not wanting to overlook any potential avenue to increase economic activity in Pickens County as well as to support the Georgia Department of Economic Development, we chose to participate early in the Camera Ready program and as a result the community has been scouted for several films.

     The State helicopter landed in Talking Rock last summer with the Director and Crew scouting a location to film a new version of The Great Locomotive Chase, and in addition, a location in the county was one of the finalists for the upcoming “Dirty Dancing” remake. We were selected and several articles have appeared in the Progress about the scenes filmed by emerging movie companies in numerous locations throughout Jasper and Pickens County.

     So what will result from Trouble with the Curve?

     Aside from Jasper being promoted through talk on Atlanta radio and being listed as a location on the Internet Movie Data Base (, much may be determined by the experience of the production company and the actors.

     During the scouting and the location preparation we have worked hard to make their experiences very positive and hassle-free so that within the entertainment industry the reputation of Jasper and Pickens County is that it is a great place to make movies. On the upcoming filming dates it is vital for all members of the community to do their part to insure the same.

     If you want to someday meet a star, help make sure their experience is one they wish to repeat, not forget, so that the future of film here is an economic blockbuster, not a flop.


Eclectic Finds: My thoughts on retail vacancies in Jasper

By Royce Haley,

Co-owner Burnt Mountain Trading Company

An editorial a couple weeks ago on vacancies in downtown invited input.  I would like to share some thoughts, observations and insight that I have on this subject. I don’t claim or profess to be an expert on this subject; just someone in the trenches observing, learning, and asking questions along the way.  I am however, a retail business person that does have a vested interest in the success and growth of downtown if not Pickens County. Too often, I find people have an opinion on this subject that have never had their own retail business, yet people drink their cool-aide and promote or elect them to represent us, the retail merchants that drive business and tax dollars into our community!  This is one of a two part article that I have written to share my thoughts on this subject (look for the other next week in this spot).

Without people flocking to Jasper currently, Jasper real estate needs an eye opener. Currently, Jasper’s commercial real estate pricing, whether buying or renting, is as high as Roswell, Marietta, Ellijay and even Blue Ridge.

The difference between Jasper and the cities I just mentioned are people. Example, our store in Roswell on any given Saturday will see a thousand customers. Our store in Jasper won’t see a thousand customers in a whole month. It is a numbers game. Say your rent is $1,000 per month. Utilities would run about $500 per month: phone, water, trash, electricity, gas and insurance. Then if you had to pay someone, (however most business owners don’t take a paycheck) count in another $2,400 per month. So, just to open the door, a small business owner is looking at $3,900.

Retail is somewhat of a numbers game. If you could sell 10 percent of your inventory in a month (which is rare, but still a goal), you are doing very well.  So, to cover your base overhead, you need to have at least $39,000 dollars worth of inventory. But, that only pays the basic operating costs. That still doesn’t pay for the inventory that was sold.  Realistically, you need to sell $7,800 worth of merchandise to cover your costs. That still doesn’t give you any profit…you are just paying the bills. One thing to consider, if you are working on selling 10 percent of your inventory as a goal, that just brought your inventory totals up to $78,000. How many people can open a business with $100,000 as starting capitol?

If your average cost per item is $5, then you would have to sell 1,560 items per month just to break even; or 52 items per day. If you only have 1,000 people per month visit your store, that breaks down to 33 people per day.  If you HAVE  to sell 52 items per day to stay afloat, then statistically every person that walks in your store has to purchase more than one item. Realistically, about 30-40 percent of your customers purchase something.

The reason there are so many vacancies in Jasper is because the building owners are charging the same per square foot in Jasper as they get in Roswell. There should be more of a difference in rent in Jasper than Roswell. Example, downtown Atlanta charges more per square foot than in Buckhead.  Buckhead charges more per square foot than in Roswell. See the pattern.              The rents should be based on traffic and what people can afford, not just a hypothetical “they charge this much, so we will too!” Isn’t that why we are in such a huge real estate glut now?

Without using actual value and market studies, just placing a price on it because the banks weren’t double checking the numbers? I know the landlords don’t want to hear this, but until foot traffic picks up, the buildings will stay empty unless they lower the rent. I don’t understand their logic of preferring to have an empty building.  They still have to pay taxes whether the building is occupied or not.  Wouldn’t a little rental income to cover utilities, taxes, and maybe just a little left over for your pocket, be much better than having to pay 100 percent of the costs all on your own?

Put together a 3 to 5 year plan, and revisit the amount of rent being collected and if business is up, then increase the rent.  Stay tuned for part two.

 [Royce Hayley is the co-owner of Burnt Mountain Trading Company at 14 Mark Whitfield St, along with Canton Street Antique Market in Roswell, and is planning on opening a third store in Blue Ridge this year. He currently is in the process of writing 2 travel books. Haley lives in the Burnt Mountain area for over 12 years now. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .]



Polycorp Inc. companies to give $32,000 scholarship to PHS senior

Innovation in Engineering Scholarship deadline April 1

Scholarship Details:

The Innovation in Engineering Scholarship was created as a way for Polycor to become more involved with the local community and encourage students to pursue degrees in engineering.                         

At Polycor we believe that economic prosperity comes from actually making things in America.  Even better, making

sustainable products in America, while leading innovation and excellence. To do that, we need bright engineers in this country to lead the way.

Polycor Georgia Marble and Vetrazzo will proudly award a $32,000.00 scholarship to a 2012 Pickens

High School senior, to be announced in May, 2012.

Arrests made for multiple car break-ins

Three Pickens residents have been arrested in conjunction with at least a dozen auto break ins that occurred over the weekend of March 9 through 12, according to Pickens County Sheriff’s reports.

Capt. Joe McDonald of the Criminal Investigations Division said the Ivy Ridge, Wild Timber and Saddle Ridge subdivisions were targeted by a group of young adults. “They would just ride through those subdivisions late at night on those days and flip the handles to see if they were unlocked. They wanted to see what they could get easily,” he said.

According to McDonald the sheriff’s office received calls about the break ins, and through their investigation were able to track down and apprehend the three suspects.

Two found guilty in home invasion

District Attorney Joe Hendricks announced that Jael Aareon Gates, age 20 of Hollis Queens, N.Y., was found guilty by a Pickens County jury on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012, of armed robbery, three counts of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Senior Superior Court Judge Fred Bishop sentenced Gates to 25 years with the first 13 to be served in prison and the balance of his sentence to be probated.

Gates and his co-defendant, Ira Joseph Hanna, were indicted by the Pickens County Grand Jury in March 2011 for the home invasion/armed robbery. The home invasion occurred at an apartment in Jasper.